WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 – American farmers have made tremendous strides in conserving natural resources over the last decade, but what does the future look like?
That’s the topic to be explored when members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry meet on Tuesday for a hearing focused on future conservation challenges as they relate to the next Farm Bill.
These 2012 Farm Bill hearings are breeding new discussions about what the conservation title should include, but many are happy with the cost-cutting changes made last fall as part of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.
At that time, committee leaders decided to consolidate some of the current working lands conservation programs and cap the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) participation at 25 million acres, down from the 32 million acre cap allowed now.
In a letter sent to the Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D- Mich, and Ranking Member Pat Roberts, R-KS, Friday, ten farm organizations wrote in support of the changes offered last Nov.
“We write to express our support for the framework for Title II, the Conservation Title, developed as part of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction process. That framework, as we understand it, contained provisions strongly supported by the farmers our organizations represent: simplification, flexibility, and consolidation,” they wrote.
“The number and complexity of USDA conservation programs is daunting to many growers. Your success in consolidating 23 programs into 13 – reducing the number almost by half – is welcome news. We applaud your efforts to simplify these programs, keeping the same tools but merging them into fewer programs.
“We also support your efforts to focus on working lands conservation. These programs have grown to be the largest in the conservation portfolio, and for good reason. Farmers value their ability to partner with USDA in protecting and conserving soil, water and other natural resources, particularly as a tool to help them prevent and/or comply with regulation. Agricultural conservation programs truly provide a win-win in this respect,” they wrote.
The letter was signed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, theAmerican Soybean Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Barley Growers Association, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Cotton Council, the National Farmers Union, theNational Sorghum Producers, the US Canola Association, and the USA Rice Federation.
The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday, focused on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
The House will vote on a private property rights measure on Monday afternoon. The Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2011, H.R. 1433. Among other things, the measure prohibits a state or political subdivision from exercising its power of eminent domain, or allowing the exercise of such power by delegation, over property to be used for economic development or over property that is used for economic development within seven years after that exercise, if the state or political subdivision receives federal economic development funds during any fiscal year in which the property is so used or intended to be used.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the House will also consider the San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act, H.R. 1837, introduced by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-CA. Nunes says the bill will restore the flow of water to farms and rural communities to the way it was before a 2007 lawsuit by environmental interests concerned about the Delta smelt put seasonal restrictions in place.
Agricultural interests in the state have long complained that the restrictions are costing Central Valley Farms and the workers they employ significant amounts of income and jobs.
For other hearings and events this week:
Monday, February 27
9:00 a.m., House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Field Hearing on “Natural Gas—America’s New Energy Opportunity: Creating Jobs, Energy and Community Growth”
4:00 p.m., House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law; Hearing: H.R. 4078, the Regulatory Freeze for Jobs Act of 2012, 2141 Rayburn HOB
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will host the National Governors Association in the White House.
Tuesday, February 28
Secretary Vilsack will sign an MOU with the American Legion to enhance USDA’s efforts to recruit transitioning service members and veterans as well as promote USDA program delivery in Washington, DC
10:00 a.m. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Strengthening Conservation Through the 2012 Farm Bill, 216 Hart Senate Office Building
10:00 a.m., House Committee on Appropriations; Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies;Budget Hearing - Department of Agriculture - Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, 2362-A Rayburn
10:00 a.m., House Committee on Education and the Workforce Markup of H.R. 3989, "Student Success Act" and H.R. 3990, "Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act"
10:00 a.m., House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Power and the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, Hearing: The FY 2013 EPA Budget, 2123 Rayburn HOB
1:00 p.m., House Committee on Ways and Means, Hearing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Proposal with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
Wednesday, February 29
10:00 a.m., House Committee on Agriculture, The Commodity Futures Trading Commission 2012 Agenda, 1300 Longworth House Office Building
10:00 a.m., House Committee on Ways and Means; Hearing on President Obama’s Trade Policy Agenda with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Second Panel on the Future of U.S. Trade Negotiations
10:00 a.m., House Committee on Appropriations Homeland Security, Hearing: Budget Hearing - Customs and Border Protection - Chief and Assistant Commissioners, B-318 Rayburn
10:00 a.m., House Committee on Appropriations, Hearing: Budget Hearing - Department of Health and Human Services, 2362-A Rayburn
2:00 p.m., House Committee on Appropriations, Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Hearing: Budget Hearing - Department of Agriculture - Inspector General, 2362-A Rayburn
USDA Reports: Chickens and Eggs - Ann.; Broiler Hatchery; Egg Products; Agricultural Prices
Thursday, March 1
Deputy Secretary Merrigan will speak at GW University Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration in Washington, DC
10:30 a.m., House Committee on Appropriations; Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Budget Hearing - Department of Agriculture - Under Secretary for Rural Development, 2362-A Rayburn
Vice President Joe Biden will speak at Iowa State University in Ames on manufacturing and American innovation.
Friday, March 2
Secretary Vilsack will speak at Commodity Classic and hold a press conference in Nashville, TN
The House is not in session.
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